A NEW coach, a tweaked roster, and a return to a proud name hopefully work wonders for San Miguel Beer as it kicks off its PBA Commissioner’s Cup campaign on Friday against Meralco at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
With former assistant coach Biboy Ravanes now calling the shots for the team formerly known as Petron, the Beermen will be counting on former New Jersey Nets mainstay Josh Boone to lead a resurgence when they clash with the Bolts at 5:45 p.m. in the first game of a double header.
Ravanes will be working alongside team consultant Todd Purves, who is expected to take an active role coaching on the sidelines.
San Miguel top big man June Mar Fajardo is a doubtful starter though, after spraining his left ankle last Sunday in practice.
The 6-foot-10 Fajardo, Best Player of the Conference in the last Philippine Cup, sat out the team's only tune-up game Tuesday against Barako Bull which the Beermen lost, 110-114, and still skipped the Beermen's practice on Thursday.
Fajardo is coming off career-high averages of 16.3 points, 14.8 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, and 1.5 assists in the all-Filipino conference where he has developed into a dominant inside force for the team.
Still, Ravanes is confident that with a system already in place and the backing of Purves and the rest of the coaching staff, the Beermen can be dominant this conference starting with the game against the Bolts.
“Kung ano mako-contribute ko, tutulong-tulong kami saka may kanya-kanya kaming designations,” Ravanes said.
“Iyung system kasi almost the same lang. May dagdag lang na couple more of plays, pero halos pareho lang ng last two conferences,” added Ravanes, who succeeded erstwhile coach Gee Abanilla about three weeks ago.
Abanilla has since been promoted as team manager in one of the many movements the Beermen undertook during the conference break.
Solomon Mercado and Rico Maierhofer will also be debuting for the Beermen after being acquired from Globalport and Barako Bull, respectively.
Meanwhile, Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio hopes import Brian Butch, the 2010 NBA D-League Impact Player of the Year, would be able to address the team's problem in the middle.
“Import reinforcement will be critical for both teams. Hopefully, Butch can help us plug our hole in the middle. We want to bounce back strong,” Gregorio said, whose team is coming off a woeful ninth place finish in the season-opening Philippine Cup.
With just a week of practice though with the Bolts, the 29-year-old Butch is expected to have his hands full against Boone, a 6-foot-9 big man, who is out to prove he could still play at a high level even after recovering from a knee injury last year.
Though undrafted in the NBA, Butch, who hails from Appleton, Wisconsin, played four seasons in the NBA D-League, owning career averages of 14.0 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in 137 games played.